A Fife Sunday football league of more than 30 clubs has been described by a senior sheriff as “an excuse for organised violence”.
Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC said worrying evidence had emerged at a jury trial over which he presided.
It revealed a “quite staggering level of aggressive behaviour and violence” was “accepted” within the league, he said.
He said players were “going head-to-head every match”, according to the witnesses.
The sheriff hit out as an amateur footballer who broke an opponent’s jaw during a Fife Sunday Amateur League clash last year appeared for sentencing.
Christopher Kyriacou, striker for Kinghorn-based Novar Rovers, pulled Dunfermline United player Chris Comrie to the ground and punched him twice on the head.
The incident happened on February 24 in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, during a 4-3 win for Novar Rovers.
Sheriff Gilchrist said Mr Comrie’s part in the incident had also been “far from acceptable”.
Kyriacou, 26, changed his plea to guilty on the second day of a jury trial at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in February.
He admitted assaulting Mr Comrie to his severe injury and permanent impairment.
Sentence was deferred to Falkirk where Kyriacou was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.
Solicitor Martin McGuire, defending, said Kyriacou, a joiner, of Napier Street, Kirkcaldy, had served a 16-game ban following the incident.
The court heard Kyriacou had acted because he “perceived a threat” towards his younger brother, George, 22, who was also playing for Rovers.
Mr McGuire said his client accepted it was “completely disproportionate” and “certainly doesn’t seem to be a pattern of behaviour”.
Sheriff Gilchrist said: “In normal circumstances I might agree, but there was evidence which seemed to suggest that in this particular league there is an accepted level of aggressive behaviour and violence which is quite staggering.
“A number of witnesses spoke of players going head-to-head every match.
“Ultimately it’s a matter for the organisers.
“But the idea that a Sunday morning amateur league in Kirkcaldy and elsewhere in Fife appears to be an excuse for organised violence is quite worrying.”
Imposing sentence, he told Kyriacou: “The fact that this assault took place in the context of an amateur football match is of limited, if any, relevance, because what you did went way beyond anything that would have been acceptable in that context.
“You inflicted a serious, lasting injury on the victim.
“On the other hand I have to take into account the behaviour of the victim, which was far from acceptable and to an extent, though probably not in the legal sense, was provocative to say the least.”
After the case, John McCrombie, fixtures secretary for the Fife Sunday Amateur League, said the sheriff was “wrong” to describe the league as an excuse for organised violence.
He said: “Our league is no worse than any others. Now and again you get something blowing up in a game. It’s people’s nature. It happens at every level, right up to senior level. You can tell the teams how to behave but that’s all we can do.
“This is a thing that happens in the heat of the moment in all types of football.”
The Fife Sunday Amateur Football League was formed in 2006, with 32 teams competing in the divisions.
It runs under the auspices of the Scottish Amateur Football Association and is a member of the Fife Amateur Football Association.